China is now in the final stage of preparation for its leadership transition, as the once-every-five-years national congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is in session with some 2,300 delegates attending.
Under outgoing President Hu Jintao, who led China for the past 10 years, the country has achieved rapid economic growth, surpassing Japan in 2010 to become the world’s No. 2 economy. During Mr. Hu’ tenure, China’s economy grew nearly four times in size and its per capita gross domestic product in 2010 was 3.2 times the 2002 figure. Current per capita GDP is estimated at $5,000. This is a great achievement.
Mr. Xi Jinping, expected to be elected China’s new leader at the end of the party congress, will inherit enormous side effects caused by China’s economic development as well as its achievements.
To maintain its legitimacy, the CCP must continue to increase the economic fruit for people. But this process has produced problems such as a growing gap between rich and poor, widespread corruption, and environmental disruption. China, with a population of 1.34 billion, has significant ethnic problems. China’s new leadership clearly will confront great challenges.
Speaking at the opening of the party congress on Thursday, Mr. Hu said that China will double its GDP and per capita income by 2020 from 2010 levels. He pointed out that the economic gap between urban areas and agricultural villages is still great, and that China’s economic development is imbalanced. “We must aim higher and work harder and continue to pursue development in a scientific way, promote social harmony and improve people’s lives,” he said. His statement shows the sense of crisis he has with regard to the general conditions of Chinese society and the economy.
He declared that “the Scientific Outlook on Development,” which aims to achieve sustainable and balanced growth, will be the CCP’s “theoretical guidance” on a par with Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory. He thus set the basic policy principle that China’s new leadership must follow.
The goal set by Mr. Hu will be difficult to achieve. Protests against corruption and unreasonable behavior by party officials now take place on a daily basis. The number of such incidents doubled in five years to some 180,000 in 2011. Many of the participants in recent anti-Japan demonstrations were jobless. Before trying to achieve balanced growth, China’s new leadership must first worry about how to create enough jobs at a time when economic growth is slowing, falling to 7.8 percent this year. If the growth rate sinks below 7 percent, unemployment will become a serious issue.
At the party congress, Mr. Hu also expressed a determination to “safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.” China may be tempted to use foreign-policy issues to distract public attention from domestic problems. Japan must persevere in resolving the diplomatic crisis with China over the Senkaku Islands.